Singers, yoga teachers, many athletes, and others know a secret about breathing. Here is a way swimmers can use breathing to help relax anywhere, including before swim practice or a big swimming race.
When you were little you did this one without even trying! At your desk at work or home watching TV, try a few breaths like this: Your tummy just below your ribs moves out a little as you breathe in, and goes back down when you breathe out. Just a tiny bit, do it softly and gently. (It feels like you're breathing down into your tummy a little). You'll find yourself relaxing and feeling better! Do five or ten breaths to start, whenever you want. You can do more as you get used to it. Little by little it becomes your natural way of breathing, with lots of healthy benefits!
Try this traditional breath exercise - it's easy, and when you finish you'll feel a gentle tingling for afew minutes called 'streamings' that's so wonderfully relaxing and refreshing!
- Don't eat or drink for two hours. Lie on your back, head as low as your back, and knees up with feet flat on the bed, arms by your sides. Loose and/or stretch clothes make it easy to expand both chest and tummy. Now you're set -
- Inhale with nose only, mouth closed. First use just half of your inhale breath so just your tummy rises, your ribs don't rise. Don't exhale yet, and -
- As your tummy stays up, use the remaining half of the inhale breath so now your ribs rise, too. A good, full breath but no straining. Now -
- Exhale completely with your mouth open wide (but don't strain). Make a 'smile' face with upper and lower teeth showing, and make the exhale sound like a breathy 'Haahhh', like it's more up in the roof of your mouth than down in your throat. (But no vocalizing: don't 'Say Ahh', like at the doctor's office. The exhale is purely just breathiness, no talking sounds at all). The more you exhale this way, the stronger the effects will be!
A few extra hints:
- 5 minutes minimum, 20 minutes maximum.
- Someone right there with you, looking at you, maybe holding your hand, anything encouraging, always helps in completing the entire time you want.
- When you finish, try to keep any movements small, and try to avoid yawning, talking, and stretching.
Now, just enjoy! . . . and let yourself discover the wonder of the streamings. Practice relaxation. I hope it helps you to relieve stress and perform at your best.